Ahmed Morsi, Seaside, 1987, diptych, acrylic on canvas, overall 7' 8 1/2“ × 11' 9 3/4”.

ON A CRISP MORNING this past summer, before the streets had wilted under the humidity and grime, I picked my way through the strange corporate wilderness and crowds of office workers of midtown Manhattan to find the studio of Ahmed Morsi. An Egyptian painter of both rumor and renown, Morsi has lived in a modern townhouse on East Forty-Eighth Street since 1974. He is totally out of place yet firmly present in this most improbable of neighborhoods, making paintings that act as portals to other worlds, bringing multitudes back to these shores in the form of ghostly traces.

Morsi, who turns eighty-eight this month, has been an established, almost canonical figure in Egypt for decades. He is known for his poetry, his criticism, and his journalism, as well as for his painting. Historians consider him a core member of the so-called Alexandria School, the experimental novelist Edwar

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